riddim

In Jamaican music – particularly dancehall – it is a common practice for a producer to create a basic rhythm track (bass and percussion) and to then solicit a variety of artists to create songs over it. The track is called a riddim.

This is a sort of “invitational appropriation,” in which sometimes dozens or even hundreds of singers will put their own melodies and harmonies, additional instrumentation, and above all vocals over the same beats. Imagine if Kanye produced accompaniment tracks and then invited other artists to do with them as they liked. An intriguing alternative model, which has things in common with other forms of musical appropriation, but in some ways is almost an inversion of hip hop practice and sampling.

Since the advent of the Internet, a number of websites have sprung up that catalogue riddims and the songs made from them, and sometimes provide access to the songs.

DJs frequently compile continuous mixes of songs based on a riddim and release them on records or cds. To get a taste of what that is like you can listen to this short compilation of the some of the songs that have been created over the “Bam Bam Riddim,” produced by Sly and Robbie in 1992.

You will find many more riddim mixes on YouTube and music sharing sites.